What a wild ride it’s been. Between the crisis in the credit market, the instability of the stock market, and the intensity of the election, we Baby Boomers have had a lot on our minds. Financial advisers may have advised you to “sell a stock short,” which means to sell a stock (that you don’t own now) at today’s price in anticipation of acquiring the stock at a lower future price. While this may (or may not) be good financial advice, as a relational adviser I insist that you “Don’t sell yourself short.”
Do you know the one thing that is most likely to cause you to “sell yourself short?” It’s your cluttered closet. It’s true! There is nothing worse than skeletons in your emotional closet to wreak havoc on your feelings of optimism and self-value. Now that we are on the other side of both the election and Halloween and because we are living in the middle third of our life, this is the perfect time to do some serious sorting, assessing, and letting go. It’s time to clear out the old, the outdated, and the burdensome so we have space to create a more current view of who we are and how we most want to love our selves and others.
WHAT’S IN YOUR CLOSET?
Cleaning out skeletons starts with some digging. Read each of the following questions, then stop and scan your body for reactions:
1. What unresolved hurts are you holding in your body?
2. What are you most ashamed of about yourself or your past?
3. What triggers your anger, aggression and/or resentment?
Be honest with yourself, did you let yourself feel the feeling or did you avoid it (or perhaps skip the whole exercise)? Unfortunately, avoiding skeletons in your emotional closet means heightening these difficult feelings and diminishing positive ones. The result is either the emotional clutter we call anxiety or a closet full of feelings that bursts open, floods you, and creates crisis.
DO AN INVENTORY
Which of those questions created the biggest bodily response? Your answer will tell you what types of feelings are cluttering your emotional closet: sadness/pain, shame, or anger. Knowing the nature of your clutter is the first step in clearing out the old and readying for the new.
For each feeling that you found rattling around inside set aside a sheet of paper. At the top of each sheet write a title that names the feeling then fold the paper in half. Over the next 7 days begin and end the day with the affirmation “I am willing to see how I am selling myself short,” opening yourself to any memory, situation, thought, or experience that relates to those feelings. Pay attention to things like dreams and daydreams, current situations that evoke these feeling, or an unexpected recall of a forgotten event. However they are revealed, list each of these on the left side of the paper.
GOOD WILL HUNTING
Get ready to release the old baggage by listing on the right side of the paper what you need inside of your Self in order to find completion. It might be that you just need to be fully present to your feelings, or bring self-compassion to the parts of you that have suffered, forgiveness to the parts that have made mistakes, acceptance to the parts that have felt wrong, bad or shameful, or a soothing and calm voice to frightened parts. There is a resource for every need you have. Ask your inner wisdom to tell you what it is. You can also refer back to my earlier article entitled “Living Fearlessly in Midlife” (scroll down and hit the link entitled “Nancy’s Bio & Columns”). Having an attitude of “good will” toward yourself and your feelings is what’s ultimately healing and brings about self-loving behavior.
Research tells us that there are certain skills that emotionally healthy people have. They include:
· Allowing one’s self to fully experience emotions as they happen.
· Accepting the present moment as it is, neither pushing away nor holding on to an experience. This doesn’t mean accepting situations that need to be changed.
· Recognizing that being emotionally aware doesn’t mean always feeling good.
· Having compassion and understanding for one’s emotional experience.
You know how good it feels to have a clean clothes closet. The advantage to a clean emotional closet is that the baggage of the past no longer imposes on nor colors current events. We live more freely, more fully. So, during this season of change, clean out your closet, get a flu shot, and inoculate yourself against trying times with a hopeful and optimistic attitude toward life, free of old burdens.